Serving as the CIO for insurance at Endurance Specialty Insurance Services, and taught Management Information Systems to Adelphi M.B.A. students.
Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Chief Information Officer, Endurance Specialty Insurance Services
B.B.A. + Grit + Ingenuity = CIO
Jim P. Lee ’91 has a résumé that an M.B.A. grad might dream of. He has been a chief information officer at the insurance broker Marsh & McLennan Companies, a senior management consultant at IBM and an executive director and head of information technology and managed account operations for north america at UBS Global Asset Management. Yet, he has no M.B.A.—only his undergraduate degree in finance—and, despite the many goals and dreams achieved, he says he doesn’t believe in making career plans. Rather, he sees life as a journey—one where there are rewards for working hard, taking risks and being open to learning.
At age 19, Mr. Lee took his first calculated career risk, enrolling at Adelphi even though the tuition was more than he could comfortably afford. He loved the leafy, suburban feel of the campus.
The youngest of four boys, Mr. Lee commuted to campus from his home in Jackson Heights, Queens. His father worked nights as a restaurant manager. His mother was a seamstress and later worked in the printing industry. He was expected to go to college and to pay for it. To cover the bills, he worked three jobs—one with the Adelphi maintenance crew, another at a decorative lighting store and a third supporting management consultants at IBM The latter position was one his brother, who also worked at IBM, helped him obtain, and it gave him a thirst for consulting.
Although Mr. Lee worked briefly for IBM after graduation, he quickly realized that moving into a consulting role required industry experience. So he took a position as a support analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston, working long hours at the help desk, among other things. His diligence paid off, and he quickly rose to assistant vice president and head of information technology.
But returning to IBM as a management consultant a few years later was a dream come true. He worked on the team that built the Web presence for Fidelity Investments, advised on the integration of IT platforms and organizational structure during the merger of Bank One and J.P. Morgan and helped create the first online banking platforms. The different roles he played on the varied engagements gave Mr. Lee a wealth of experience. “Foundationally, it’s why I am where I am today,” he says.
Over time, the heavy travel took its toll, and Mr. Lee left management consulting to join a former IBM colleague at UBS Global Asset Management, where he started as a business analyst. “Their business didn’t really utilize IT; it was really kind of stale,” Mr. Lee says. A new CIO, hired within a month of Mr. Lee, had a vision for change. Mr. Lee impressed the CIO during a meeting on prospecting clients. “He asked me to manage a group,” Mr. Lee says. Suddenly, Mr. Lee was overseeing the friend from IBM who had helped recruit him, and he had a direct line to the CIO. “That was where I really put everything together in terms of what I’d done throughout my career,” Mr. Lee says. He also says that the small, entrepreneurial nature of the team enhanced his leadership capabilities. “I was there hiring the right, qualified individuals, leading them, inspiring them, motivating them,” Mr. Lee says.
In 2006, Mr. Lee made another career leap, joining Marsh & McLellan as the global CIO for the consumer business. Former UBS executives who were already at Marsh lured him over. Again, Mr. Lee had the opportunity to lead teams and implement change. “It was very exciting because it was a high transaction, low touch environment where technology could make a big impact,” Mr. Lee says
Two and a half years after joining Marsh, Mr. Lee took on the added responsibility of managing IT for the North American region, which encompassed the risk management brokerage platforms. The recession and added pressure on costs meant that he focused much of his energy on streamlining processes and reducing overhead. By 2011, after having significantly lowered IT expenses, he decided to leave to tackle new challenges.
Mr. Lee is now serving as the CIO for insurance at Endurance Specialty Insurance Services, and, last spring, he taught Management Information Systems to Adelphi M.B.A. students. “At first, it was a little overwhelming because I’ve never taught before,” Mr. Lee says, adding, “I had a great time doing it. The students appreciated my real-life experiences as it relates to the content in the textbook.” For Mr. Lee, business experience has been the equivalent of his M.B.A.
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